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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Leadership: leading your Marines by example

By Lance Cpl. Michael Kjaer | | September 28, 2000

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The Marine Corps has a long tradition of defending the United States of America, and Marines are known for their fierceness and tenacity in battle. The Marine Corps also has a long tradition of producing strong leaders to take charge of those Marines in battle. Sgt. Alan Roberts, Corporals Leadership Course instructor and Boston native, believes leading Marines during peacetime is nothing more than practice for wartime. When I think of leadership, I think wartime and combat situations, said, Roberts. Were in the business of preparing for combat. Each day of peace is nothing more than a day the enemy gives us to prepare to meet him. Roberts believes there is a lot required to be a good leader, but the concept is very simple. According to Roberts, when all of the details are swept aside, the question comes down to when you take Marines into war are they going to follow you? If you are a good leader and demonstrate a good leadership style then they will, said Roberts. If you havent then they wont have confidence in you. Roberts said the confidence and belief in leadership abilities are measured every day by actions. If good leadership is not displayed in training and peacetime situations, then Marines cannot be expected to listen to a leader in wartime. You must have confidence in your troops, said Roberts. More important than that however, is that your troops have confidence in you. Troops must believe in their leaders if missions are to succeed. A guiding principle in Roberts leadership beliefs is that he never asks another Marine to do something he hasnt or cant. Leadership is learned by example, said Roberts. If you are telling a Marine in your charge to do something, it shouldnt be because you cant. It should be because you are doing something else. Roberts believes subordinate Marines see much more than leaders realize and leaders need to understand their actions are always watched and constantly judged. People are affected by everyone they come into contact with, said Roberts. I try to take something positive from everyone I meet, especially people who are senior to me. This is the same message Roberts tells Marines in the Corporals Leadership Course on graduation day. Some of what you learn [from people] will be good and some of it will be bad, continued Roberts. The key is to find what you like about a person and apply that to your own style. It is just as important to see negative traits and ensure you do it differently, he said. According to Roberts, that is how he has put together his leadership style. Roberts said, his leadership style changes every day as he is influenced by people he meets. Roberts also believes leaders need to understand that approaching all Marines the same way does not work. According to Roberts each Marine is different and has different needs. A good leader can determine how best to motivate his Marines, said Roberts. Some Marines require a lot more guidance than others, continued Roberts. You can give other Marines a task and they let you know when it is done. Both types of Marines have their values, but different Marines require different styles of management. According to Roberts, the difficult part of being a leader is when you are in charge of a group of Marines with different needs and levels of ability. You have to adjust your style to suit most of them, said Roberts. You have to find the medium and hope you dont leave anyone behind. Roberts believes each Marine has different strong areas and weak areas. A good leader finds and uses his Marines strong points. In the end, what it comes down to is did you provide a good enough and strong enough example that Marines are willing to follow you, said Roberts. Marines see what you do, good and bad. All you can do is try to provide the best example you can and hope that they take something positive away with them.
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